Nothing Lasts Forever takes itself infinitely more seriously than its adaptation, Die Hard. It’s a dark and violent novel, almost entirely bereft of the film’s humour, with ghastly outcomes for its protagonist and his closest associates. In that respect, Nothing Lasts Forever is an elongated, page-turning adage: violence is never the answer, and implementing it usually escalates proceedings instead of having a pacifying effect. As his main character single-handedly hunts down the terrorists who’ve stormed the Klaxon building, author Roderick Thorp augments the reader’s deep sense of foreboding: Joseph Leland clearly isn’t the solution to this problem. His actions are simply antagonizing the enemy, and increasing the death toll. Come the novel’s end, readers will ponder Leland’s own tumultuous thoughts: what would the outcome have been if he’d not intervened in the first place?
Nothing Lasts Forever is a clear blueprint for Die Hard, despite some key alterations. Fans of the film will recognize iconic scenes, even when they play out slightly differently in print. There’s a distinct lack of Hollywood sheen, however; Thorp’s novel is far grittier, and the intentions of its cast far more enigmatic. Joseph Leland is no John McLane, and not just because he lacks the everyman sense of humour and sarcasm Bruce Willis executed to perfection. Leland survived the war as a pilot, and has the intervening years as a cop, then as a consultant. He lacks McClane’s irrepressible likability (even when he was blasting away the bad guys) but is a worthy protagonist because of his haunted past. His wife is dead, his next relationship disintegrated because of his inability to switch off from work, and he constantly questions the veracity of the job he did raising his daughter. McClane had his demons, but Leland is positively haunted.
Even the action scenes, though executed with combined precision and pizzazz, lack Die Hard’s frivolity. In Nothing Lasts Forever, Leland is forced to terminate the lives of youths – terrorists barely in their twenties – and is forced to take lethal action against several women, a gut-wrenching burden he carries until the final pages. There’s an overriding feeling that, even if Leland survives this siege, he’s never going to live a normal life after this. His definition of normalcy has been crushed, replaced by something twisted.
Those expecting a facsimile of Die Hard – the same raw pace and never-ending thrills, just on paper – will be disappointed. The novel is a very different beast, but certainly worthy of exploration. Nothing Lasts Forever stands alone as a fine action thriller, but also offers fabulous insight into the adaptation process. It’s fascinating piecing together the elements the screenwriters utilized and slashed to create one of cinema’s greatest ever blockbusters.